What if we could get our gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel from yeast instead of from oil wells? That's not as crazy as it sounds. In fact, it's already happening on a small scale. And there's a vigorous research effort to ramp this up on a massive scale.
One of the more innovative approaches uses a new technology called "synthetic biology." Jay Keasling is one of the leaders in this hot field.
The U.S. is ready for tornadoes, but not tsunamis.
That's the conclusion of a panel of scientists who spoke this week on "mega-disasters" at the American Geophysical Union's science policy meeting in Washington, D.C.
The nation has done a good job preparing for natural disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes, which occur frequently but usually produce limited damage and relatively few casualties, the panelists said. But government officials are just beginning to develop plans for events like a major tsunami or a large asteroid hurtling toward a populated area.
Climate change seems like this complicated problem with a million pieces. But Henry Jacoby, an economist at MIT's business school, says there's really just one thing you need to do to solve the problem: Tax carbon emissions.
"If you let the economists write the legislation," Jacoby says, "it could be quite simple." He says he could fit the whole bill on one page.
Basically, Jacoby would tax fossil fuels in proportion to the amount of carbon they release. That would make coal, oil and natural gas more expensive. That's it; that's the whole plan.
Global Thermostat's pilot plant in Menlo Park, Calif., pulls carbon dioxide from the surrounding air. The next challenge is to find uses for the captured gas.
Credit Courtesy of Global Thermostat
"If they don't tell you you're crazy, you're not doing something worthwhile," says Peter Eisenberger, co-founder of Global Thermostat, a firm that's building a device to pull carbon dioxide from the air.
Every year, people add 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the air, mostly by burning fossil fuels. That's contributing to climate change. A few scientists have been dreaming about ways to pull some of that CO2 out of the air, but face stiff skepticism and major hurdles. This is the story of one scientist who's pressing ahead.
Harry Kaplan practices pitching during Home Run Baseball Camp at Friendship Recreation Center in June. Kaplan's arm is stretched long and toward the ground as his hips are faced away from the catcher. A chimp, in contrast, could never throw a fastball.
Credit Heather Rousseau / NPR
Barry Zito, of the San Francisco Giants, pitches against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field in Denver, in May.
Credit Justin Edmonds / Getty Images
Coach John McCarthy, with Home Run Baseball Camp, talks Harry Kaplan, 12, through a proper pitch at Friendship Recreation Center in Bethesda, Md., in June.
The ability to throw a baseball or any object with speed and precision is unique to us humans. And that ability depends on certain features of our anatomy that arose in our ancestors over 2 million years ago, according to a study published in this week's issue of the journal Nature.
"There are no two ways about it: the bullsh*t is strong with wine."
That's what Robert T. Gonzales recently wrote on io9.com in a post that eviscerated wine tasting as a form of skilled craft. "Wine tasting. Wine rating. Wine reviews. Wine descriptions," he writes. "They're all related. And they're all egregious offenders, from a [expletive deleted] standpoint."
Researchers in the Great Lakes are trying to control an ancient fish, the sea lamprey. The species is notorious for latching onto other fish and literally sucking the life out of them. The lamprey larvae can be killed with a special poison, and now one biologist thinks he's found a way to make sure they're in the right place at the right time to die.
Alabama has moved up one spot to 44th in the Kids Count national rankings.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation released the Kids Count data book Monday. Alabama showed improvements in children's health and education between 2005 and 2011. The teen birth rate declined and the rate of high school students not graduating in four years also declined.